Female Composers in Classical Music

In past years, female composers have started to gain more recognition in the classical music scene. From 20th-century greats to newly commissioned pieces, the works of female composers are getting more recognition as a result of women’s rights progress such as the #MeToo movement and the Women’s March. However, their representation in major symphonies still remains alarming, with institutions like the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra eliminating female composers from their program entirely in recent years. Considering the drastic increase in the rights of women in the past century, it is surprising that this field has not progressed in the same way.


Of course, a few women have made their way to the top, with pieces being premiered and performed by philharmonics around the world. One such composer is Jennifer Higdon, a Philadelphia native whose works have been heard throughout the nation. After winning both a Grammy and a Pulitzer Prize for her work, she has successfully established herself as a composer. Yet is this the only way to get recognized as a composer? Especially for minorities like women and people of color, a major award is sometimes the only way one can distinguish themselves and gain a reputation. For this reason, Higdon says, more tools and resources should be provided to not only fill the gap between men and women, but also to aid struggling composers in advancing their careers.


A new standard canon for symphonies across the world can be established, with a diversity equal to that of America. After all, the music industry includes people of all races, genders, and beliefs; why shouldn’t composition follow the same rules?